What broke the logjam amid hectic consultations led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the politically volatile 2G spectrum note was her appeal to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. She asked him to play the trouble-shooter in the spirit that saw him resolve knottier issues for the party and the government in the past.
Till then tempers were running high on either side. But Sonia’s intervention in one of the meetings he held at 10, Janpath had a salutary impact. It brought to an end Mukherjee’s face-off with home minister P Chidambaram who felt hurt and wronged by a passage in the note that cast doubts over his role in the spectrum allocation that has landed then telecom minister A Raja in jail.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the two ministers after his return from a scheduled visit to Sikkim and shortly before the media event. While he was away, the Congress president took the matter into her hands, following up on Thursday her earlier meetings with the estranged Mukherjee-Chidambaram duo. The tone for the expected entente cordiale between Singh’s senior-most cabinet colleagues was set in these discussions spread over an hour in the course of which Mukherjee met Sonia separately and in the presence of her political secretary Ahmed Patel.
Even the gist of the statement the finance minister made before television cameras outside his north block office, flanked by Chidambaram and telecom minister Kapil Sibal and law minister Salman Khurshid, was decided in Sonia’s presence. It was agreed to that while Mukherjee will read out the statement, the home minister would respond by indicating reconciliation and closure of the issue.
The PM met Sonia about 30 minutes after this public show of unity that was without the right body language. But the statement was so worded that it seemed to placate Chidambaram and protect Mukherjee’s stand that the note was the result of an inter-ministerial effort as opposed to the perception that it was authored solely by the finance ministry. “Apart from the factual background the paper contains certain inferences and interpretations which do not reflect my views,” averred Mukherjee.
He said the policy of the government in 2007-2008 was continuation of the policy adopted in October 2003 (under the NDA regime) and reiterated by the TRAI. This implied that no motive could be imputed as Chidambaram’s position was in conformity with that of the UPA government.
The statement’s opening paragraph dilated on the objective behind preparing the note. It said: “A number of stories on 2G spectrum had appeared in the media in January 2011. A view was taken that a harmonized note based on facts should be produced for use by various representatives of the government. A group of officers prepared an inter-ministerial background paper which was sent to PMO on 25th March 2011.” That meant all stakeholders were in the loop---from Singh’s office downwards---leaving no scope for singling out any individual or department.
The Congress’s highest court has given its verdict; over now to the highest court of the country.